Monday, June 28, 2021

Supposed to be 108 in Redmond today. I'm not sure I've ever experienced that high a temperature before. I'll be in Bend where it is supposed to be about 106.

The parking garage was almost empty yesterday. There were still shoppers, but less than normal. I expect everyone is staying home or heading for the lakes and rivers. 

We (humanity) have really fucked ourselves.

NY Times listed 98 people dying of Covid yesterday, first time I've seen it under 100 in a long time. 

I'm working at the store for 4 days while Sabrina is on vacation. (Lucky lady, she's at the coast!)

Meanwhile, my two sisters, Bets and Sue, are coming to visit, and I have 3 doctor and dentist appointments scheduled in this time span.

But after that I'm free to be baked.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021


 Got into an argument with a comic speculator, the second time this week.

It's been 20 years since I've had to deal with speculators. I need to learn my old ways of dealing with them. Put on the "blank face," nod, ignore negative comments. Best of all, go work in a different part of the store. 

I was kind of told not to use PTSD as an excuse, but my reaction to these things is very strong, way stronger than it should or needs to be. About a very limited subject. But the emotional turmoil it causes is real.

I never really learned to let it go--it was more that the speculators more or less disappeared for a couple of decades, and the occasional clueless person who still thought it was 1995 was easy to ignore.

Now they're back, in force. In most ways I don't have to interact with them. I really questioned whether it was wise to do Pokemon, but I figured I could handle it and for the most part I have. I don't have traumatic response to Pokemon because I didn't have it the first time around. So I'm better at it.

But the comic mania happened at the tail-end of the sports card fiasco. It's sports cards that I really react to, and I've avoided having anything to do with them this time. But comics followed closely on the heals of sports cards and had many of the same characteristics--the biggest difference was that when the bubble burst, there was still a core of comic readers.

It was the comic readers who I then rebuilt my business on. I discouraged speculation every chance I got. 

Now I'm getting pushback for my discouragement.

Time to shut my mouth, step back, and give as short of answers as I can.

Thursday, June 17, 2021


Sent the following to the city councilors.


"I hope there is still some time to present the other side of the story when it comes to the Minnesota St. Pedestrian Mall.

It with some alarm that I see how the opposition to the pedestrian mall is being portrayed by the supporters: a sad shake of the head and the claim that only a few businesses on Minnesota St. are opposed. By now, this has become a complete misrepresentation of the truth.

From my discussions, the following businesses are opposed.

Dudley's Bookshop Cafe.

Pegasus Books.

The Paper Jazz.

The Wool Town.


The Feather's Edge. 

Joel Gisler's wife's shop. (I'm sorry--I'm not sure of the name.)

Pave is neutral, from what I can ascertain. 

Which means that on the southern side of the street,  3 businesses are in favor or neutral: 7 are opposed. I not sure how this translate into a few dissenters. 

On the other side of the street, Jeff Murray's Photography is opposed, for sure. There may be others who I haven't talked to yet.

Two of the four building owners, Chris Frick and Joel Gisler are opposed.

Businesses included as Minnesota St. supporters include Oxford and Brickhouse, who will not be directly affected by the street closure. The main supporters appear to be restaurants: 900 Wall, The Good Drop, and Bos Taurus. 

The idea of a "stage" built in front of my store is alarming. During festivals when this has happened it has completely blocked entrance to my store. I literally have to ask people to move aside so that customers can enter. 

Please look very closely at this with open eyes--it's hard to argue against the city planners and an organization that is supposed to represent my interests, but I feel I must say something."

Duncan McGeary

Pegasus Books. 

City knows best...

"Good morning, sir, we've come to tear up your sidewalk."
"But why?"
"Because we have in mind a much better sidewalk. Much nicer."
"But it's a perfectly serviceable sidewalk!"
"Yes, but other towns have much better sidewalks. Don't be negative, sir. Maybe you'll love it."
"I guess I can give it a walk."
"Oh, no. It's much too nice to be walked on. We plan on having booths and such, things people like."
"But how will I get into my house?"
"Come now, sir. Isn't the public so much more important? We'll have parties every weekend. You can join if you want."
"But I want peace and quiet on my weekends. People come to my house with work all week."
"Oh, we can't have that, sir. Sidewalks are meant to be enjoyed. Having people come and go would just be a hindrance."
"But it's how I make my living!"
"Can't be helped, sir. Now if you'll just use the back alley from now on and stay out of the way, we'll improve your life so much!"
"But my house!"
"Don't be selfish, sir. Besides, we'll probably want to demolish it. We're thinking of a much nicer house--one without any people in it."
"That's it, sir. So glad that you agree with us. Now, you'll have to do without a sidewalk for awhile while we build a new one. But once it's done, it will be beautiful. I'm sure you'll have many visitors lounging in our beautiful tables and chairs. So if you'll keep down the noise, we'd appreciate it. Goodbye now! We're so glad you agree with us!"


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

My talk with Mayor Russell.

Had a fairly long talk with Mayor Russell yesterday. Her main point was that I needed to keep an open mind to the possibilities, to which I answered I thought that ingenuous--as if to say, by being opposed I was automatically unwilling to listen to reason. I mean, it's a reasonable stance for her to take, but I've done enough research and had enough experience downtown to come to a conclusion.

The one thing that seems to really open her eyes was when I told her how well I was doing, even compared to a few years ago. "Downtown is killing it," I insisted. "You can see why I don't want to change things."

Got asked to go on TV again, but this time declined. Tom at Dudley's seems to be taking the lead right now, getting his customers to email the council, though I fear that he's taking the DBBA's assurances that they're backing off a little too seriously.

Anyway, good for Sally Russell and Andrew Broadman for willing to talk to me about it.

I hope they come to the right decision.


Sunday, June 13, 2021

Another study about pedestrian malls, this one by a local.


Received an email from Kristen Stilton, a recent transplant to Redmond, as follows:

Hoping this finds its way to Duncan McGeary…..

I am a recent transplant to Redmond, via Boise, but from So Cal.  When I was on the Design Review Board and the Planning Commission in Huntington Beach, CA, years ago, I wrote the attached which was published in the Orange County Register.

In my opinion, Minnesota Avenue is not currently set up for a successful pedestrian Mall.  It mainly lacks anchor draws on both sides (dead ending at Wall Street).  This can spell disaster if the street is close, in my opinion.

Feel free to write me back here if you wish to discuss how you can parse/use some of these facts into your narrative (I have been remote for 10 years)


To have or not to have a Pedestrian Mall at Huntington Beach Main Street...

As a concerned Huntington Beach resident and patron of downtown shops and restaurants, and as a resident within walking distance of the pier and Main Street, I am a proponent of enhancing and improving this downtown experience. As a California licensed landscape architect whose final thesis project at UC Davis discussed pedestrian-only thoroughfares and transportation issues for parts of the city of Berkeley, I might have more than a fleeting perspective of whether a street closure mall on Main Street is a viable solution for us.

Opinions, comments, facts, and fiction abound concerning this local topic. Like many, I have enjoyed and appreciated the Third Street mall in Santa Monica. However, I am also aware of completely failed projects where much time and effort and money is now being used to re-open closed roadways. In the 70s, cities jumped on the “closed-streets-pedestrian-mall” bus like it was going to pass them by. Proper studies were not done for many projects which have resulted in blighted or deteriorating downtowns. Many of the hundreds of pedestrian malls of that era and prior have since failed. Some of these include: 14th Street Mall, St. Louis; Franklin Street Mall, Tampa; AND, touted as the first pedestrian mall in the country in 1959, Kalamazoo Mall, Michigan. As well, there have been some success stories. These include: Pearl Street Mall, Boulder; 16th Street Mall, Denver; Third Street Mall, Santa Monica; State Street Mall, Madison Wisconsin.

When researching success of pedestrian malls, one invariably ends up reading of something in Europe (Essen, Bonn, Cologne, Hamburg in Germany, Copenhagen in Denmark, London). European tradition and culture embrace a historical design vernacular that generally excluded or minimized vehicles. We are not Europe. We do not have the history and infrastructure that de- emphasizes the automobile. We would need to address shortcomings here. For us to mimic design success, we need to be fully cognizant of expected user behavior versus realistic behavior based upon our national and local culture, attitude and impressions, and existing structure/design. Design is not a stand-alone element of attraction, and the time-weary phrase “form follows function” applies here. Function includes: what do people really WANT to do, what WILL they do, where WILL they walk and shop. The bucolic street experience that people may envision will not happen through forced features and design.

Instead of pushing through a concept that sounds good superficially, has anyone generated a list of the issues we “think” a pedestrian mall would solve, or experiences we think are lacking? Perhaps this mall idea is not the way to solve them. Perhaps the same effort and money could be applied differently more efficiently. What about Huntington Beach’s citizens and merchants? Downtown’s shop owners and restaurateurs, especially, need to fully supportive of ANY initiative to move forward with this concept. So far, they have voiced their concerns, and I have yet to see the concerns fully addressed. How can you assure them their revenues will increase through this change? Trial closure has been bandied about like it would solve everything and prove something. The only true test of success of such a mall would be if someone could compare participation levels, visitors, and spending habits of patrons on both a “non-closed” day, and the same day (climate, season, etc) but “fully-built-out.” This is impossible. To those who think a temporary bollard closure will immediately change usage patterns (read: spending/visiting), I say you may be very disappointed in the results. How much money would be required to actually improve the experience, even temporarily? What should the measurements of success be, and who is going to do this analysis objectively?

When the pros and cons and history are understood, and still a majority of local merchants, citizens, and politicians embrace the thought of moving forward, then the next undertaking is to work on the basic elements that are required for success, and what we are lacking. This is not a one-step project. Moving forward with such a proposal needs to be viewed as a long-term commitment involving money, time, phased construction, re-evaluation and on-going monitoring. The promise up front needs to be one to make this succeed.

Some consistent elements in successful pedestrian malls include:

  • Size – usually 2 to 6 blocks. We meet this.

  • Focus, draw, attraction – like in an enclosed mall, you must have anchor attractions at

    either end and, ideally, “a hub” to support all in the middle. I don’t think we meet this. The pier, as a draw, is not balanced by anything as significant at the other side of the Main Street proposed closure. A potential problem is a triangulation of traffic from the pier to The Strand to Pacific City, alienating the businesses near the post office. This is already a reality to some extent.

  • Plentiful parking at the periphery of “the mall” – ideally, this would be free or low cost. We lack this. This could also be the balance attraction to the pier.

  • Connector streets and walkways from “the hub” to parking and other further attractions such as Strand and Pacific City – we fall short here. The pedestrian experience is ended by busy streets, cars, intersections. We would need to be able to extend the experience to the connector locations.

  • Diversity of shops and eateries and experience – we have a beach-themed environment and surf-based shops here. Can we add some family draw? Entertainment?

  • Transportation addressed – bus hubs, taxi drop-offs, car pool parking, shuttles. We should consider options.

  • Ongoing Maintenance and Revitalization – we would need to revisit and revise the mall regularly as society changes, as most of the successful malls undergo occasional re- design and upgrades.

    Common trends in the failed malls include:

  • Bad parking

  • Exposure to weather, or sense of exposure

  • Inefficient circulation

  • Loss of or lack of tenant draws

  • Perceived or real increase in crime

  • Lighting issues

  • Safety issues

  • Lack of shopping diversity.

  • If we were to think of our California and local culture, we could certainly add to this

    potential problem list: conflict of bikes/skateboards/pedestrians, litter issues, graffiti, lack of family-oriented destinations within the proposed mall.

    To have or not to have a pedestrian mall? The answer to the initial question is simply not easy. A decision will be made to either move forward or not in designing a street-closure mall. Let’s hope the decision is fully researched both from a design and financial standpoint and that everyone is cognizant of both best and worst-case scenarios, with contingency plans in place on all fronts.


They're back!

Another article in the Bulletin today about what they called "a plaza." Says there was "mixed reaction" to the proposal, which I think is an understatement. No news that the Downtowners have delayed the proposal.

It almost doesn't matter, because they'll be back. It's very clear to me that the city management is all for the proposal. I suspect the city council will be inclined to listen to them, sadly.

When you bring up the failure rate of pedestrian malls, these "experts" answer is that is different this time, that they know what they're doing. But closing the streets and adding landscaping was the same in the past as it will be in the future. No one had explained why it's different this time. I guess they're smarter than the guys who did it before?

Actually, there is a huge contradiction in their approach. What's "different" this time is that plan a constant series of events. (Which hurt business--no one seems to deny this anymore)

When I pointed this out, they more or less denied it. Which I thought was a little devious--of course they'll use the plaza--for Everything.

I still think it's more likely than not they'll do this. I'm going to be talking to Sally Russell today, as much as I can (I'll be working at the store.) All we can do is try.


Saturday, June 12, 2021

Why are Marvel and DC acting in ways that from my perspective seem suicidal? I have some ideas.

Simply put, their "new" corporate overlords (AT&T and Disney) can't understand why comics don't sell better. It must be because comics aren't promoted correctly, comics aren't somehow reaching the right people, that those of us that distribute and sell comics aren't doing our jobs correctly. 

See they compare the box office totals to the DC and Marvel movies and--well, there is no comparison. It's like comparing the juniper tree in front of my house to a Sequoia in Yosemite. It doesn't compute. There must be something wrong.

The same thing happened about 25 years ago. Marvel decided that the system was broken and by God, they were going to show us how it was done. They bought a comic distributor and proceeded to sell their own comics.

It was a complete and utter disaster. Two thirds of all comics shops went out of business, dozens of publishers, and all but one comic wholesaler were destroyed. Marvel itself went bankrupt.

So here we go again, down the same road. DC and Marvel feed the speculators, who are a very unreliable bunch of customers, and readers drift away and sales decline and--in a panic--DC and Marvel decide to pull out of the current system and show us how it's done.

I suspect we'll see similar results.

Penguin Random House will promote Marvel comics like they have never been promoted before--and it probably won't make any difference. Look, if billion dollar movies, hit TV shows, young adult graphic novels, and toys and games and....every other kind  of Super-Hero paraphernalia you can think of haven't significantly budged the needle, all of PRH's emails promoting the "Top 100" comics isn't going to either.

Look, I used to think differently. I thought for instance that the Spider-man movie would sell Spider-man comics until nothing happened. I thought the huge upsurge in selling Watchmen or the 300 or Sin City GNs would turn into something. Instead, once the movies came out, sales actually dropped for a time. Walking Dead? Sold a bunch of the graphic novels but once the show was over...crickets.  

Comics as comics just aren't a significant part of our culture. The IDEA of comics--that's a whole 'nother story. I will bet you anything that there are millions more people who wear superhero T-shirts than who actually read comics. Who buy the toys and the video games--and hundreds of millions of people who watch the movies and TV shows. 

Oh, occasionally someone will drift in and ask for a Scarlet Witch comic, and believe me, that's only because of the TV show, but we're talking--in my store--half a dozen people? Maybe?

If you want to condemn me for being pessimistic, I can understand why. Just realize that I would be so very happy, thrilled, to be wrong.

I don't have to call the local bookstores and ask if they are going to carry comic books now that PRH has them--I'm pretty sure that Sunriver Books, and Roundabout, and Dudley's aren't going to touch them. Graphic novels, maybe, but they can already do that. 

So if they aren't going to sell them, where is the advantage? How does hurting the business who actually likes comics and is interested in selling comics help? 

It's self-destructive, I tell you, and I'm insulating myself from the damage that's coming.

The Market stays irrational.

We still get daily calls about whether we sell or buy sports cards. We haven't done that for...let's see...about 20 years. I guess once the info is online for doing something you're online forever. 

My experience with sports cards was so unpleasant that you'd have to shoot me--and the behavior of some of the people who call only reinforces that feeling. ("What are they worth?" I don't know, sir. I haven't done it for twenty years...."Then where to I sell them?" I really don't know, like I said..."Who is selling them?" Uh, how do I say this, I HAVEN'T DONE IT FOR TWENTY YEARS! "Well, you don't have to be an asshole.")

Anyway, even before I quit sports cards much of the chatter about the industry was foreign to me--but I still could understand most of what they were talking about. Then a few years later, it was all completely Greek to me. I had no more idea what's happening to sports cards than I would, say, a diesel engine manufacturer. Not a friggin' clue.

Also about 20 years ago we shifted to a "reading" model of comic store. That is, once the speculators washed out of the comic industry, we still had a core group of customers who were readers, who bought comics because they enjoyed the stories and art. So we catered to readers--carrying graphic novels was one good way to do that, especially as back issue sales declined. 

But comic readers were never enough to completely keep us in business, either before the speculative boom of the mid-90s (thus, us carrying sports cards) or after the bust (thus us carrying Magic, board games, toys.)

Then, about five years ago the market started to shift again. There was still the core group of reading customers--but the industry started catering more and more to speculators, until today--I'm starting to get the same feeling of not understanding what the industry is doing anymore. 

I decided to shift even more decisively toward new books and games, and that turns out to have been a good decision. We are doing better than ever, overall.

But the comic biz is going through a huge amount of turmoil right now. No one knows what's going to happen. The Big Two--DC and Marvel--have moved to new distributors, which puts everyone else in jeopardy, increasing the time, money, and energy we have to devote to ordering and receiving weekly shipments.

In the meantime, much of the chatter is about the speculative value of comics for which I care not one fig. It's rather dismaying to read my fellow comic retailers talking about ratios of incentives for special covers, variants of comics that have nothing to do with the contents, errors on the cover, and outrageous pricing online for comics that came out yesterday. We've done this before and it didn't turn out well. But I get the distinct impression I'm in the minority.

As John Maynard Keynes said about the stock market: "The stock market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent."

As I said, we are doing amazingly well, so I can watch this process with a certain distance, shaking my head, and hoping everyone comes to their senses. It's a very weird feeling to do something for 40 years and realize the market has completely shifted. 

And to be making more money than ever. Weird.

Project delayed.

Apparently, they've delayed the project to turn Minnesota into a pedestrian mall. This is good news--but I'm not sure I totally trust it. I think they'll be back when the furor dies down. Lots of big plans for downtown...most of which seem unrealistic to me, but most of which will probably happen after I'm no longer a downtowner. 

Anyway, success? I'm a little surprised we were able to stop it.

 "After the feedback from our stakeholders on Friday morning, I have been directed by the DBBA board to create a presentation for the City Council that recommends extensive R&D before taking any action on Minnesota Ave, but immediate progress towards restrooms in downtown (on their own)." 

I think this will be framed as a failure in communication. Instead of, the plan sucked. 

Friday, June 11, 2021

Went to the Downtowner presentation this morning.

It was every bit as unpleasant an experience as I feared. I pretty much turned people against me. The crowd was overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal, which was presented in Utopian, happy-talk terms.

Apparently, the early meeting had gone the other way. Tom and Jeff took me aside as I arrived and told me what had happened. It felt good to have them on my side.

But inside the room during my hour, it turned out much differently. Linda and Trish tried to assure me that it hadn't gone wrong, but no one was meeting my eyes, which is a really bad sign. No one came up to say they agreed with me. 

Yeah, I probably didn't help my case.

But I kind of know this about myself. I come on too strong, don't know when to shut it. 

Anyway, I think I'm done. I'll talk to Mayor Russell on Sunday, tell her to be aware that despite what the Downtowners may tell her that there is significant opposition to the idea.

And leave it at that.

As Trish said, "You've only been in business in downtown Bend for 37 years. Why would they listen to you?"

37 years of listening to business owners come in without a lick of common sense who then go out of business. 37 years of newcomers telling me how it should be. Why do you insist in coming and changing what already works? Why come from somewhere else only to change it to the same thing you left?

37 years of working around the problems created by the Downtowners. 37 years of going my own way, of opening on Sundays when no one opened on Sundays, of being opposed the ever-expanding special events that hurt business, 37 years of fighting them, trying to keep them from permanently closing the streets. 37 years of realizing I have no influence and I'd better protect my business from their stupidity. 37 years of telling the downtowners they need to find ways for minimum wage, half time employees to afford parking. 37 years of always paying significantly above minimum wage to keep good employees.

37 years of looking at what actually happens, not what some book says. 37 years of people telling me that somewhere else does it better only to learn that the person who does it better is no longer in business. 37 years of building my business steadily until my 37th years was my best ever (even with being closed two months for Covid) and of having my 38 year turning out even better. 

And despite that, despite the huge numbers of customers and tourists downtown, the business who aren't apparently doing well (many of them who are still not open on Sundays and Mondays) are going to do a Hail Mary pass despite ample evidence it's a risk. 37 years of having the restaurants dictate what happens downtown despite having almost no similarities to my business.

So I will being doing my 38th, and 39th years, and so on, on my own, working around their decisions, ignoring their pie-in-the-sky plans and just doing my thing. Again.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

2nd short story accepted.

Maybe I've been in the wrong game all this time. My first two short stories have been accepted. I'm not actually surprised. The story I wrote for SNAFU is a corker, if I do say so myself. They're going to put me through a rewriting process, but I can do that. 

My story for the werewolf anthology was an original idea, and after the rewrites, I think it's a corker too. 

What I haven't decided is whether I want to dive into this market. These two opportunities presented themselves through my normal Facebook browsing. Also, I think the stories were effective because they were written specifically for those markets.

Sending off short stories on spec is a different game. I think the reason to do it is to get your name known and associated with other, perhaps better known, writers. A career builder, if you will. I'm not sure I have time left to build a "career." 

I do enjoy the one and done nature of short-stories. Even the rewriting is a more concise process. But I'm really not into the submit and be rejected and try somewhere else game. I'm so spoiled. I always hit immediate (beginner's luck?) success, and then confronted by the true nature of the business--which is work, work, work.

Let's see where these two lead. With any luck, someone will ask me to write for an anthology.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Frontlist versus Backlist.

Frontlist: Books that are just coming out.

Backlist: Books that were published in the past.

So I finally have the terminology I've been looking for to describe how my store differs from so many others. Because my main concentration is on backlist versus frontlist, while just about every other new bookstore I see does the opposite.

A question I often get is: "Are you a used bookstore?"

"No...I can't pay the rent with used books." I have limited space and if I'm going to get XXX dollars per square foot, it needs to be retail, not half or less. No matter what those books cost me.

I liked to think this question isn't because my store somehow looks shabby, but because the titles they see are often what they'd find in a used bookstore. I mean--a really good used bookstore, because most used bookstores would not have the quality selection of backlist books I carry. A used bookstore can only carry what people bring in, and buyers tend to slough off less than stellar books, mostly, with a few quality books mixed in. It's a tiring process to try to negotiate, and in my opinion, no longer viable. There are too many books in the world, at the same time that only a few of them actually sell as backlist books.

Whereas I can pick and choose which older books to carry,

I've concentrated on carrying the backlist books that are worth carrying. The classics, cult books, the books that have a following. Find an author people like (Murikami, PKD, Bukowski, Palahniuk, Vonnegut), and carry their entire oeuvre. Find books that have enduring interest--The Princess Bride, for instance. And of course the classics, especially in kids books.

I concentrate on carrying the newest frontlist YA graphic novels--but in concert with that I carry the entire series, from book one to the latest.

I reorder just about everything I sell, because most of what I select to carry have legs--they are perennial sellers.

Frontlist? It's a guess and a gamble. Even there, I tend to wait and see how frontlist books are doing before I order them. I order a few each week based on the reviews and publicity--but for those titles that are new but haven't had a huge push, I tend to stay back and wait. I check the "bestsellers" lists because I can usually catch a few sales even if I'm not the first store in town to carry a title.

Meanwhile, I keep selling Edith Hamilton's "Mythology," and the "Princess Bride," and "1984," and
"Watchmen" day after day, week after week. 

All of this is due to the nature of my store. People don't come to me looking for the newest bestsellers. That would require that locals actually think of me as a "bookstore" and I've given up ever convincing locals of that. I have an image and nothing I do can change that.

Tourists and visitors, on the other hand, take me for what I am--what they see when they walk in the door. And they are more likely to buy a older standby, one they've always heard about but never see, a classic they've always wanted to read. And, yes sometimes, a bestseller they've been hearing about. 

There is no wrong way or right way--each store has to decide what their customer base is and order accordingly. But I do believe ordering two/thirds backlist and one/third frontlist is less risky than ordering two/thirds frontlist and one/third backlist. 

The bonus is that I can often pick up backlist books are more of discount. I also think it makes my store more unique--not the same bestsellers that everyone else is carrying. I don't know. Maybe I'm just old enough to remember what were the hot books from twenty, thirty years ago.

I've moved more and more into the frontlist realm. It's a bit of a challenge, but we're doing well enough to take the chances. But I really enjoy carrying That One Great Book that no one has. Going back and ordering not only "Shogun" but all the followup books. Carrying "The Godfather" and "The Thorn Birds" and so on.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

"Closing Minnesota Ave for a Pedestrian Mall is not a great Idea."




There is a proposal, apparently already in the works, to turn Minnesota Ave. in downtown Bend into a pedestrian mall.


First all, a little personal history. I’ve been in my store, Pegasus Books, for 37 years now. I’ve watched downtown Bend come back from the brink and it’s been a wonderful thing to see.


As it happens, in my first year downtown (1984) a pedestrian mall was proposed. I was too new

to have an opinion, but my neighbors were opposed. I did remember that a friend of mine, Wes Hare, (recently retired city manager of Albany, OR) while still at Bend High School, had been part of a city council committee to explore this idea. In visits to merchants in Coos Bay and Eugene, they were warned against doing it.


My first point is that researching this is an easy matter. I would ask our city councilors to ask their counterparts in cities who’ve had this experience. I’m going to quote research papers and articles on the subject when I talk about this, but I would encourage you all to go online and check it out yourselves. At the end of this, I’ve written down some pertinent links for you. There are literally pages and pages warning against this idea.


But to sum it up, most of the pro-pedestrian mall proposals look good on paper to people who haven’t actually studied the matter. This isn’t an opinion: study after study has come to the same conclusions. Closing streets to traffic is bad idea. City thrive on flow, not on people hanging out.


But how about we start with the basic Wikipedia entry on Pedestrian Malls? Three paragraphs in it says the following:


HISTORY: “Today, pedestrian malls are relatively rare in the U.S., except for areas with many tourists and other visitors. They were more closely tied to the success of retail than in Europe, and by the 1980s, most did not succeed...” Almost all of this generation of pedestrian malls built from 1959 through to the 1970s, have disappeared, or were shrunk down in the 1990s at the request of the retailers.”


The good recent example of a pedestrian mall is Fresno, California. I’m going to quote a couple of paragraphs from the introduction of an abstract by Cole E. Judge of Fresno State for the Downtown Fresno Partnership.


·Pedestrian malls in the United States have an 89% rate of failure. Most have been removed or repurposed. Only 11% have been successful.


·Cities that have embraced the Main Street and Complete Streets models…” (what Bend currently has) “…have experienced turn-arounds in their downtowns with more investment, higher occupancy rates and more pedestrian traffic.


It turns out that having car traffic is good for business. Pedestrian streets feel emptier—the same number of customers walking sidewalks while cars are passing are dwarfed by the space and lack of motion. They are also a magnet for loiterers, panhandlers, and buskers. I think this would be a big problem at night.


How long before the city allows permanent or seasonal retailer booths? Who pay nowhere near yearly rent merchants pay, who have minimal overhead, and who only add to the competition in our spaces for customers?


Even the Old Mill District and Cascade Village have kept streets open to traffic. I guarantee you that they consulted with city planners who know that pedestrian malls aren’t a great idea.


Why does this idea keep coming up? Well, it sounds good. I admit, if it actually worked—or wasn’t a huge risk for failure—it would seem attractive and welcoming. But in fact, this isn’t how it usually works.


Finally, I see this as a precursor to turning the entire downtown area into a mall, which I believe would be a disaster. After all, we were promised that the parking spaces taken away from us for Covid would be “temporary.” Have you noticed that they appear to have become permanent?


The experience of all these failed pedestrian malls is that they are much harder to reverse than to put in place. I would encourage you not to mess with success. Leave well enough alone. Honestly, sometimes success is success. Bend has done a great job.


Again, I encourage all of you to Google all this—and pay particular attention not to the “pie in the sky” plans, but the actual experiences of downtowns who have already done this.


Thanks for listening. Links on the following page:


Duncan McGeary

Pegasus Books

105 N.W. Minnesota Ave.

Bend, Oregon.


LINKS (Note: these were all on the first page asking the simple question: are pedestrian malls a good idea?)


Saturday, June 5, 2021

The 80s, 90s, and 00s were one long blur of work.

Liz Phair has a new album out and I've listened to some tracks and really like it. I realize I've never listened to "Exile from Guyville," so track it down.

Some I'm a 68 year old guy listening to a truly great album for the first time.

This keeps happening now that I'm semi-retired. I finally have time. 

What it makes me realize is that the 80s, 90s, OOs, were one long blur of work. I didn't have time for much of anything, including reading, certainly not the time and listen to an album straight through. I came home and crashed on the couch and if I was lucky I found something good on TV,

So they always talk about a "second childhood" but I keep thinking I'm having a second "teenagehood." 'Cause that's what I did in my teens--lay in the dark in my room and listen to albums, over and over, absorbing them.

I was lucky enough to get away from fulltime work when I was 59, and I went on a writing spree. But I also found the time to discover some music, books, and movies that I just didn't have time for before. 

What a life.

Friday, June 4, 2021

The Downtowners are killing me.

NOTE: I'm leaving this up, but the be fair, I need to make a correction. I should have read the details. Apparently, out of the seven days of October Fest, they are only closing my street for one day. So that IS an improvement. 
So the Downtowners have learned--apparently to their surprise! (I'm shocked...I'm shocked, I tell you!) that:
"...we've learned that the majority of businesses see a decrease in sales during Summerfest, Fallfest, Bite of Bend..."
Which I have only been pointing out for twenty years...
So their answer is...get this... to make October Fest a WEEK long!
Brilliant solution! Take an event that causes an acknowledged "decrease in sales" for two days and extend it to seven days!
Jesus wept.
They've analyzed the elements to successful downtown events and decided to incorporate them by having a bevy of new happenings!
But here's what pops out at me. The "Successful Events" they talk about, First Friday, Ladies Night, and parades all have one simple thing in common.
Either there are NO street closures, or in the case of parades, limited to a few hours street closures. 
It really is a simple as that. 
I give up.


No pressure.

When I stopped my daily walks after my heart attack, my glib answer was that I felt "betrayed."

Now, a couple years later, that seems even more true. I can see more clearly now than ever what a commitment of time and energy it was to walk an hour each and every day. And how diligent I was about it. It was actually a two hour thing because I preferred solitude and scenery and had to drive a half an hour each way to find it. It was always difficult to carve out part of the day, but I almost always did it.

Of course, I was writing full-time and walking was helpful to that process, and now I'm not writing as much.

I'm fatalistic, frankly. Something's going to get me and it could get me at any time. I can see the aging of the outside of my body and assume the same thing is happening inside, where I can't see it.

I take my medications, but other than that, I'm more or less eating what I want. I'm keeping my weight down about 20 pounds from my maximum, but that is as much vanity as health. (If I could just lose that last 10 pounds, I'd have a closet full of new clothing I could wear. I'm sort of determined to do that next fall.)

I've more or less dedicated the next two years to getting the most I can out of the store before I fully retire. The store has been doing spectacularly well for a year now; ever since we came out of the Covid closing. Not at all what I expected. I'm detecting a slight slowdown from the peak of March, but even April and May were much better than usual.

And we are going into summer, which even with a slowdown should still be busy. 

I applied all my experience with booms toward acquiring Pokemon and find myself with plenty of product at reasonable prices when almost no one else does. This ain't my first rodeo. But there hasn't been the surge I expected because of Target and Walmart stopped carrying the product, so I'm starting to get a bit more cautious.

As I said, summer is coming and Pokemon will continue as a game, if not a fad. 

Meanwhile, new books continue to do well for us. I'm still trying to figure out how many new bestsellers to get each week, and what kinds, and what to do when they become paperbacks, but the problems are manageable. I can really only finesse things now, because there is zero room to expand. In fact, I'm hoping that summer will winnow down the books a little so I bring in a fresh wave. 

The store is fun when it is like this. I work two full days which is enough to keep in touch with what is happening. I work another two to three afternoons a week for a few hours putting away books. And I spend a few hours a week making orders. I'm guessing I'm working about 25 hours a week on average, which feels just fine. No pressure.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

"Pedestrian malls have an 89% rate of failure. Most have been removed or repurposed. Only 11% have been successful."

A howl of frustration came out of my room yesterday as I checked the emails.
The Downtowners want to close Minnesota Ave. as a Pedestrian Mall.
As you all know, I've been seeing this coming for awhile now. I was just hoping it wouldn't happen. I also told myself that I wouldn't let it happen without a fight. This time, I have to get involved.
I've written an Open Letter, which I sent to the Bulletin. There's a meeting next Friday which I will force myself to go to. I will publish the open letter here when I've refined it a bit.
But here's one bit of information from a study in Fresno. Mull this over.
"Pedestrian malls in the United States have an 89% rate of failure. Most have been removed or repurposed. Only 11% have been successful."


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

What to do with bestsellers past their prime.

Up until a year ago, I was pretty much ordering books that I intended to keep in stock forever. That is, perennial sellers that had proven themselves. Classics. Cult books.

About one year ago exactly--coming out of the closure--I started ordering new bestsellers; which come as hardcovers. 

Usually, it takes about a year before the trade paperback version of a bestselling title comes out. So I am only now reaching the point where the paperbacks are coming in while I still have the hardcovers out for sale.

So the challenge for me is not only to decide which new bestsellers to carry--which, outside the obvious torrid sellers, are a matter of instinct--but also to figure out how often to reorder those new books. What I'd really like to avoid is having the hardback copy of a book still in stock when the trade paperback shows up. 

But I don't want to pull the plug on reordering new bestsellers too soon, but I also don't want to have any leftover. 

I'm not too worried about it. It's a matter of finessing it. I mean, if nothing else I have a "First Edition" of a bestseller. Also, I can often handsell the hardcover to someone by offering 25% off, or somewhere close to what a paperback would cost them anyway. 

The other solution is to send those unsold hardcovers back. I haven't done that yet, but it certainly would solve the problem. I guess I have to figure out how to do that.